Thumbing around online, Twitter-chatting about Sonoma, following pretty much every winemaker I can on IG, I can’t not notice Sonoma Cutrer. I guess it’s weird that I’ve only just now bought myself a bottle. Good things, they say, are worth the wait. No longer a stranger, Sonoma Cutrer, you are my new friend, and you can be sure I’ll be calling back again and again.

About the Wine: It’s no wonder I see Sonoma-Cutrer everywhere — they’ve been making wines since the early 1970s when the Napa scene just started to boom. But instead of following the cool-kid crowd, this company chose to harvest their vines in the rolling, beachy foothills that is now the Sonoma Valley AVA. And now the crew owns six distinct vineyards in the area (The Cutrer, The Pierres, Shiloh, Owsley Ranch, Kent and Vine Hill).

The 2013 Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from both the Owsley and Vine Hill vineyards. The 90 acre Owsley Ranch is Sonoma-Cutrer’s newest vineyard. It is distinguished as the vineyard closest to the ocean benefitting from the foggy climate and loamy soils, which absolutely comes through in this wine’s tasting notes. Vine Hill is Sonoma-Cutrer’s largest vineyard and benefits from a bit more warmth, as it faces south west. Although it’s more inland than the Owsley, it is still considered a Sonoma Coast vineyard and has the characteristic sandy loam soils as well.

The grapes for this wine were hand picked, sorted, de-stemmed, and punched down. The wine is then gently pressed, using a basket press, and gravity racked into barrels. According to the winemaker’s notes, their typical Pinot Noir secondary fermentation regimen includes 1/3 new, 1/3 once-used, and 1/3 twice-used French oak barrels. After aging for 10 months in barrel, the best of the best is blended for bottling. Once in bottles, the wine sits for an extra six months.

Flavor Profile: This is a soft, supple pour. That typical red-wine color is subdued, as if diluted with a bit of cloudy water (I mean this complimentary). The smell is undeniably Sonoma, with those lush bush-berries only subtly coming through on the nose, while the clear scent of salty-beachy minerality takes the center stage.

To taste is to delight in those senses, and yet there is so much more. First impressions will be of a bit of darker fruits — black cherry, plum — that are enlivened a bit with the slightest hint of bubbly cola. And then, from those fruits, you’ll move on to the greenery — those bushy leaves, if you will. Greenery — herbaceous? Maybe. But there’s more of a freshness to it in that those greens are not necessarily defined by any one characteristic flavor — it’s just bright, green, new life. Next, you’d expect to taste the forest floor, the roots of this fruit bush or tree’s existence. Instead, what I sense is a reaching up, not down, as if those branches are reaching towards the sky to lick up the salty-sea air that is ocean fog. So the finish is clean, clear, and yet, it’s more of an ellipsis than a period because you’ll want to grab another sip, discover more, reach, like those branches..for more…

Food Pairing: The thing about this wine is that it’s so open on the palate that I can’t help but call this a chameleon of a red wine. What I mean is that, whatever you’re eating, that is the essence that the wine will pull on.

For example I enjoyed this light, bright wine with a grilled salmon which enhanced the lusciousness of those initial berries. But I had this salmon atop an herb-based salad which enhanced those beautiful “green” flavors found in the mid-palate. I also had some fresh baked french bread which, believe it or not, awoken just the slightest bit of oak and spice that was otherwise just an after-taste for this subtle Pinot Noir.

And I think it’s that innate freshness I spoke of, which just has to come from the marine layer surrounding those grapes, that gives the wine this quality — this quality that let’s it play with any food you could possibly want. So, yes, for me this salmon salad pairing was perfect. But I’d buy this wine again and have it with a steak, or a vegetarian lasagna, or even a burger because I am sure that each meal will only be enhanced — and this wine, in turn, enhanced — but this chameleon Pinot Noir.

More Info: I purchased Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Pinot Noir from Safeway (Sale Price: $30 — a bit pricey, but worth it in my book). Of course for more information about Sonoma Cutrer and to purchase wines directly, please do visit the Sonoma-Cutrer website.

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